4global has joined forces with ukactive and GGFit to publish a new report measuring the impact of COVID-19 on independent operators in the physical activity sector.
The Independent Fitness Clubs Benchmarking Report is based on a study from July to December 2020, using data from 627 independent clubs, which represent a total of 289,000 members, 3.9 million visits, and revenue of £32m.
The report is designed in response to feedback from ukactive’s Independents Steering Group detailing the needs of independent business owners in terms of representation, standardisation, and benchmarking.
The report, available on the ukactive website, shows membership and participation metrics within the independents sector, as well as comparing these with the wider physical activity sector.
The key findings include:
- Turnover among independent operators was down by 43% in the second half of 2020 versus 2019.
- Net member movement was generally positive for independent clubs, but negative for the wider sector.
- Member recovery was significantly better at independent clubs, both in terms of visit throughput and active member percentage.
- More data standardisation is needed, even among clubs using the same systems.
The report was supported by ukactive members and leisure management providers, including EZfacility, Clubwise and Membr, to provide an aggregated and anonymised view of the impact of the past year, as well as the opportunities ahead for independent operators in the UK.
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “We recognise the value that independent fitness operators offer to their members and communities across the UK, providing an essential service for the nation’s physical and mental health.
“We know that independent fitness businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic but with the support of their members they have proven to be agile and adaptable to change, which is clearly demonstrated in this report.
“It is our hope that we can continue to support the growth of independents across the physical activity sector by sharing our insight and data, and working together with our members to drive change.”
Utku Toprakseven, Partner at 4global, said: “This report represents the first collaborative dive into the independent gyms collective data and is an exciting opportunity to assess the value of the rich diversity delivered across the sector.
“We very much look forward to working with ukactive, GGFit and even more independent operators and system providers in the coming months, with an aim to deepen our collective understanding of the critical impact that independent gyms have to the wider health and physical activity agenda.”
Guy Griffiths, Founder of GGFit, said: “We want to demonstrate how independent clubs are performing in relation to similar businesses and the rest of the fitness sector. This will help to share best practice, understand business recovery and encourage growth.
“This report shows the significance of the independent gym sector, and that there is an opportunity to support in driving standards, data sharing, and creating actionable insights., it is clear these businesses are more resilient and responsive to change. Put very simply, they are close to their members and have the ability to be agile in business.”
A special webinar discussing the findings of the report and plotting the next steps for the sector will be held at 10am on Thursday 6 May, hosted by ukactive with support from 4global and GGFit.